The transition to a more sustainable world is an urgent necessity in today’s society. The linear economy, characterized by the excessive exploitation of natural resources and the indiscriminate generation of waste, has proven to be unsustainable in the long run. In its place, the circular economy stands as a paradigm that seeks to close production cycles, minimize waste, and promote efficiency in the use of resources. In this context, sustainable industrial refrigeration emerges as a crucial component on the path to a more environmentally friendly future.
Importance of Achieving Sustainable Industrial Refrigeration
Industrial refrigeration, a sector that has historically been a significant energy consumer, has experienced significant advances in terms of energy efficiency in recent years. Additionally, the joint effort to eliminate refrigerants with high Global Warming Potential (GWP) is substantially contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, a key step in the fight against climate change.
Post-Covid economic recovery depends largely on the modernization of the energy system. Of course, the digitization of productive sectors and the adoption of circular economic models will also influence it. In this context, sustainable industrial refrigeration emerges as a key player in the “green recovery.” Refrigeration with this condition is capable of directly influencing the sustainability goals of critical industries such as food and pharmaceuticals, which play an essential role in current economic and social development.
How to achieve sustainable industrial refrigeration?
To achieve sustainable industrial refrigeration in your company, you – as a manager or owner – and the selected manufacturers, installers, and maintenance companies for your refrigeration projects must agree on choosing systems and methods that ensure savings and efficiency. Below, we present six key activities that will help achieve this goal.
Actions to make more rational use of energy
First and foremost, a fundamental pillar to achieve sustainability in industrial refrigeration is the efficient management of energy. Here, we will summarize some essential practices that can be implemented in your facilities:
- Strategic equipment placement. Placing equipment in the coolest location within your facilities and avoiding direct exposure to sunlight will significantly reduce energy demand.
- Thermostat optimization. Adjusting the thermostat to minimum or medium positions instead of maximum can result in savings of up to 50% in energy consumption.
- Minimizing door openings. Raising awareness among your staff about the importance of limiting the opening of doors to refrigerators, freezers, and clean rooms will reduce energy consumption.
- Ice formation control. Avoiding the accumulation of ice on the internal walls of equipment is crucial, as it reduces efficiency and shortens their lifespan.
- Door and seal maintenance. Ensuring that doors are properly closed and seals are in good condition is essential for thermal insulation and energy efficiency.
Fundamental Aspects for Generating Savings
In this same line, the European Refrigeration Technical Department recommends addressing three factors to reduce energy consumption in a refrigeration facility:
- Refrigeration needs. During the planning phase, it is essential to consider elements such as the efficiency of refrigeration furniture and the insulation of chambers. It is also necessary to establish the distance between the points to be refrigerated and the location of the installation. For this purpose, having climatic data and knowledge of the total air conditioning needs of the premises is critical.
- Design of the refrigeration system. The design must meet energy efficiency requirements. It is also important to consider aspects such as ease of maintenance, minimizing the risk of breakdowns, and implementation economy.
- Selection of components. The appropriate choice of components such as refrigerant, refrigeration circuits, compressors, condensers, and evaporators is essential for the efficiency of the installation.
Refrigeration System Adjustments
Once the installation is complete, it is essential to carry out adjustments to optimize its performance and achieve energy savings. Some key parameters to consider are:
- Evaporation and condensation sets. Adjusting these parameters appropriately contributes to optimal system performance.
- Liquid superheat and subcooling. These adjustments influence the efficiency of the installation and should be continuously monitored.
- Number and duration of compressor starts and stops. Certainly, optimizing these frequencies and times reduces energy consumption.
Maintenance of the installation is essential to achieve sustainable industrial refrigeration
Proper maintenance is essential to achieve energy savings goals. These practices should include:
- Cleaning of condensers and evaporators. The accumulation of dirt on these components can indeed reduce the efficiency of the installation.
- Replacement of filters. Clogged filters affect airflow and efficiency.
- Addressing humidity in the installation. Monitoring and correcting humidity issues are critical for optimal refrigeration operation.
- Product placement recommendations. Placing products appropriately in refrigeration chambers can, in a way, influence the efficiency of the system.
- Adjustments due to modifications. Any changes in the use of the installation should be followed by necessary adjustments to maintain efficiency.
On the other hand, constant monitoring of all components is essential to ensure sustainable industrial refrigeration. This includes a detailed assessment of the compressors’ capacity to adapt to real-time load demands.
In this regard, proper sizing of liquid and gas passage ducts significantly contributes to the reduction of load losses. Simultaneously, this reduces the energy consumption of the system.
Raising suction pressure or evaporating temperature can also be an effective strategy to decrease consumption per unit of refrigeration. Likewise, decreasing the condensation temperature reduces consumption per unit of refrigerant, resulting in considerable energy savings.
Carefully consider the following elements
- Sizing and distribution of pipes. Evaluating the sizing, routes, and distribution of pipes is essential to reduce load losses and, likewise, energy consumption.
- Use of variable speed drives. Incorporating variable speed drives in refrigeration systems allows for more efficient adaptation to changing demands and can result in significant energy savings.
- Oil cooling system. Evaluating the type of oil cooling system is essential to maintain optimal operating temperature and minimize energy consumption.
- Compressors and compression stages. The proper choice and configuration of compressors and their compression stages are essential to improve the energy efficiency of the system.
- Contaminant control. Monitoring and controlling the presence of contaminants in the system is essential to maintain its efficiency and reduce energy consumption.
- Temperature of the thermal load. Optimizing the temperature of the thermal load is key to ensuring optimal system performance and minimizing energy use.
- Temperature differentials and pressure drop. Controlling temperature differentials and pressure drop in the system contributes to its efficiency and reduces operating costs.
- Type of condensation. Evaluating the type of condensation used in the system is equally fundamental to its energy efficiency.
Choice of refrigerants
The use of appropriate refrigerants plays a crucial role in the sustainability of industrial refrigeration. The choice of refrigerants must be carefully evaluated, considering not only their efficiency in terms of cooling but also their environmental impact and local regulations. Some refrigerants have a high potential for environmental contamination, which can lead to legal restrictions on their use.
It is important to consider aspects such as ozone depletion potential, global warming potential, and other safety factors such as toxicity and flammability when selecting a refrigerant. The choice of refrigerant involves a balance between environmental advantages and energy and safety drawbacks.
Intersam develops sustainable industrial refrigeration systems
Of course, the implementation of these measures contributes significantly to achieving greater efficiency, which is one of the energy challenges in industrial refrigeration. As mentioned above, both you as a business owner and the company that designs and maintains your systems must be aligned with sustainability goals. However, it is important that the organization responsible for designing and installing the infrastructure has the knowledge and expertise to implement the actions described.
At Intersam, we have 28 years of experience in the design and development of refrigeration and air conditioning systems for industry and commerce. With us, you can choose to acquire the units you need or opt for the design and installation of custom projects. In either case, our products and infrastructure guarantee low energy consumption, reducing costs and being environmentally friendly. Moreover, we use eco-friendly refrigerants, recycle raw materials, and monitor water, oil, and energy consumption in our processes.
Do you need a sustainable industrial refrigeration system for your company, whether inside or outside of Spain? Contact us right away!